In May 2022, Microsoft made an interesting announcement. It has incorporated a VPN into the Edge browser! The feature is called Secure Network. Let’s look into it and figure out the pros and cons.
MS Edge Secure Network – announcement details
Microsoft has created three beta versions of Edge, called channels. They’re all in constant development, improving and changing. Anyone can download and test them to preview new features. The catch is: they might not work as well as the official browser. Novelties might be experimental, imperfect, undocumented.
Almost a year later, Secure Network has been introduced only in the least stable channel called Canary (as of March 2023). That’s because incorporating a VPN is a major change. Microsoft first wants to test it thoroughly and improve user experience. It’s crucial since the browser security will be affected.
How does Secure Network work?
According to the support site, this feature:
- applies an encryption-protected tunneling connection to a server;
- impedes tracking you, for example by your Internet service provider;
- hides your location by giving you a virtual IP address.
It is equivalent to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). There are many commercial VPN providers, offering both paid and free VPN to download. They need an application which encrypts your device’s connections and redirects them to a chosen server. The Edge solution is different, as it is within the browser only. You can enable it in the ‘Settings and more’ menu. Afterward, you can configure it through a button with a shield icon in the toolbar.
Edge Secure Network vs. VPN
One serious advantage of this solution is simplicity. Everything is made ready for you – just click the switch to start, free of charge! But there are a few serious drawbacks:
- 1 GB monthly data limit (some users are given 15 GB). To reduce usage, new releases allow including and excluding the specified websites from this VPN.
- You can’t choose a VPN server, the nearest one is always picked. So bypassing geo-blocking could just not work.
- Only ‘select users in limited markets’ are offered with this feature, but it’s not exactly clear which ones.
- VPN architecture is run by a third-party company, Cloudflare. Collaboration with Microsoft works according to a privacy notice. Your data is handled by two entities, which is bad if you wish for maximum privacy.
- To switch Secure Network on, you must be logged in with a Microsoft account. It allows keeping track of the data you’ve used up, but also reduces your anonymity.
- This feature is available only in a preview version of Edge, so it might work erroneously. It can be changed or withdrawn without a warning, too.
Commercial VPN solutions don’t have the above flaws. But they require installing an extra app or a browser extension. And the quality ones come on a paid subscription.
The Secure Network is currently just a curiosity. It may soon become a great privacy enhancing feature. But for now, you shouldn’t rely on it in daily Web browsing. Instead, consider getting a real VPN service.